When Satnam Singh's name was called 52nd on the 2015 NBA Draft Night, he became the first Indian to be drafted into the world's finest basketball league. While he still has miles to go before he makes his first appearance in an NBA game, he sat set the wheels in motion for many other Indians to potentially follow him to the league. But while we wait for Indians to make it to the NBA, there has been no shortage of NBA players from coming to India.
India has great potential as a basketball market, and over the past half a decade or so, the NBA has come to realize and support that potential. Dozens of NBA players have already stepped foot on Indian shores in recent years, most of them sent by the NBA itself, but many others visited with other personal and professional agendas. Apart from imparting leading basketball training clinics, many of the visits were also highlighted by charity events.
bringing the entire squad for an exhibition game in India.
So, before the numbers get too out of hand, here is the running list of every NBA player - past and present - to have visited India. Although I have scoured recent history comprehensively, there is no doubt that I may have missed visits several older visits, or visits done in complete privacy without any media fanfare (for example, Phil Jackson may or may not have spent the late 70s trekking across the Himalayas). Feel free to contact me to update the list with any such cases.
Kevin Garnett: October 2006 - In his last year's as a Timberwolf, KG took part in an adidas promotional trip through Asia which seemed to be years ahead of its time. He visited schools and adidas stores New Delhi and Bangalore, and stopped by the Taj Mahal in Agra.
came to India for the event. Although they were there for coaching programmes at BWB in New Delhi, they also visited the Taj Mahal. Korver started his trip in Kolkata, where he took part in charity work with the foundation left behind by Mother Teresa.
Robert Parish, Marty Conlon: November 2008 - Former Celtic great Parish and retired big man Conlon came to Mumbai for the NBA/WNBA Hoop School programme. Conlon, who works with the NBA office, has made several more visits to India.
AC Green: April 2009 - The former Laker came to Mumbai to inaugurate a basketball court in Nagpada.
Dikembe Mutombo: December 2009 - The fearsome Mount Mutombo himself was in Mumbai and Chennai to unveil new basketball courts in both cities.
Marty Conlon: July 2010 - Conlon returned to India to assist the NBA Challenge event in Bangalore.
when he made his trip to India, and, at its time, it was the most important visit by an NBA player yet. The NBA sent him to the Delhi-NCR region and to Bangalore for a promotional trip. Dwight took part in fan events at malls, visited a zoo, and held a clinic in Bangalore with India's national team.
Pau Gasol: August 2010 - Just weeks after Howard, the NBA sent another big All Star - Pau Gasol. Gasol went to Delhi and Mumbai, taking part in NBA Cares programmes and holding clinics in schools in both cities.
George Gervin: February 2011 - The Iceman - along with WNBA star Katie Smith - came to India in a trip sponsored by the US Department of State and the NBA. They held clinics and charity events in Delhi and Mumbai.
volunteered at a leprosy colony in the Thottanaval village in Tamil Nadu as behalf of the Rising Star Outreach.
Brandon Jennings: May 2011- While still with the Bucks, the NBA sent Jennings to Mumbai and he also made the first official NBA visit to Pune. He Attended Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA National Skills Challenge Finals in Mumbai, held clinics in both cities, and took part in charity events with Magic Bus.
Kenny Natt: May 2011-June 2012 - More people perhaps remember him as a coach, but Kenny Natt was also a journeyman NBA player for most of the 80s. After serving as interim head coach of the Kings, he came to India as the Head Coach of the Senior National Men's squad. Over the year he spent in the country, Natt traveled to several cities attending training camps, tournaments, and coaches' coaching programmes. He held clinics with the national squad of course and the junior squads too. He led India to the FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan, China, in 2011. And much, much more.
Muggsy Bogues: January 2012 - The NBA's shortest ever player came to New Delhi where he interacted and trained young players in local schools.
Raja Bell: July 2012 - Bell was in New Delhi, where he trained with India’s National Men’s Team and participated in a variety of fan events and basketball development programmes.
Robert Horry: September 2012 - Mr. Big Shot came for the launch of NBA 3x tournaments to Delhi-NCR.
Luc Longley: October 2012 - The former Chicago Bull Center visited India for the Finals of the first-ever Mahindra NBA Challenge National Championship in New Delhi.
Chris Bosh: July 2013 - In the most-hyped trip made by an NBA player to India to date, Chris Bosh visited Mumbai amidst much fanfare. The "#NamasteBosh" promotions laid the groundwork for this big visit, which Bosh made soon after capturing his second NBA title with the Heat. Bosh visited sites around Mumbai, announced new season of NBA Jam, held development camps, visited schools and colleges and took part in charity event. He also made a personal visit to the Taj Mahal.
Horace Grant, Ron Harper, Peja Stojakovic September 2013 - The three former champions from various squads came to Mumbai for the NBA Jam Finals. Grant visited New Delhi as well.
Muggsy Bogues: Feburary 2014 - Bogues returned to India to assist with the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA Programme in Mumbai and Kochi.
conducted basketball clinics at schools and community organizations across Mumbai and Chennai, provided in-depth analysis to the NBA Finals on Sony SIX, and more.
Bruce Bowen: October - November 2014 - The three-time former NBA champ of the San Antonio Spurs was in India as the 2014-15 NBA season tipped off. Bowen attended NBA Jam and Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA events in Kolkata, Gurgaon, Chandigarh, and Ludhiana, His was the first official NBA visit to Kolkata.
Vlade Divac: December 2014 - Former King and Laker Vlade Divac accompanied Kings' Indian owner Vivek Ranadive and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to a trip to India. Divac visited a school in Mumbai as part of the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme and took part in a UNICEF visit LTMC Medical College in Mumbai.
came to India to host the UBA Men's National University Basketball Championship in Chennai and judge the tournament's slam dunk contest.
Sim Bhullar - May 2015 - The first NBA player of Indian-descent, the 7-foot-5 Canadian Center who played for the Sacramento Kings, Bhullar came to India soon after the Kings' regular season ended. His trip was a perfect culmination of hoops, fun, cultural exchanges, and glamour. In Mumbai, he mingled with Bollywood top brass like Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, and Ranveer Singh, andwas a special guest on the IPL cricket show Extraa Innings. He surprised young basketball players at YMCA courts in Bandra, joined young players in a Jr NBA camp in New Delhi, and spoke to the media about his hopes for more Indians to follow him into the NBA. He took part in the ‘#Simsanity Challenge’ put forth by Indian fans in social media, fitting into an Auto-Rickshaw and saying Indian tongue-twisters. In Amritsar, he reconnected with his Punjabi roots and paid obeisance at the Golden Temple before heading to Pingalwara, a home for individuals suffering from incurable and terminal diseases, to which his family made a contribution. In Chandigarh, he conducted a basketball coaching clinics.
Jason Richardson - October/November 2015 - 14-year retired veteran and two-time Slam Dunk champion Jason Richardson came to India from October 29th - November 1st 2015 for a three-day promotional tour of the country for the NBA Jam and the continued growth of basketball in India. Richardson travelled to New Delhi, Ahmedabad (Gujarat), and Mumbai to conduct basketball clinics for players and coaches alike and engage with fans at two of the NBA's premier events in India: the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA programme and NBA Jam.